A Recipe For Making Biodiesel at Home

Eleanor Hanson

Among the growing number of options available to ordinary people in the realm of alternative fuels, there is homemade biodiesel. The quality of biodiesel made at home depends on who is making it, of course, but one who has mastered the procedure can produce extremely high quality fuel.

Safety Alert

There are chemicals used in the following procedure which can be toxic, including lye, methanol, and methoxide. While we live around chemicals which can be every bit as dangerous in numerous common household products, care must be taken to perform this task safely. It is very important to adhere to the safety guidelines discussed in the sections below.


Care should be taken to create a clean and safe working area. Steps that should be taken include ensuring the best ventilation possible, by opening windows and running fans, and wearing safety gear including a laboratory apron, plastic gloves, and face/eye protection.


To make biodiesel at home, the following materials will be needed:

– 1 liter of NEW vegetable oil
– Lye, also known as caustic soda
– Methanol
– A measuring cup with which to measure 250 mL of methanol
– A clean, dry, 2 liter plastic bottle in which to make biodiesel
– A clean, dry plastic funnel
– A clean dry container which can be sealed tightly


Measure 250 mL of methanol into the mixing container, add 4 grams of lye, and seal the container tightly. Swirl the container to mix the ingredients an initiate the chemical reaction which will produce methoxide. This reaction produces a certain amount of heat and should be given ten minutes to complete.

Heat the vegetable oil in a separate, clean pot to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), funnel the heated oil into the plastic bottle. Using the same funnel and taking care not to breathe any fumes, pour the methoxide you just produced into the same plastic bottle. Seal the bottle tightly and shake vigorously for ten to twenty seconds.

Once the vegetable oil and methoxide are mixed, biodiesel will separate from glycerol in the bottle. Though the first signs of separation may appear within minutes, it will take much longer for the separation to be complete. Fully separated biodiesel will be very light in color and much less viscous than the oil it was made from, while the glycerol will be darker and more viscous.

Finally, the extraction the biodiesel from the bottle while leaving the glycerol behind can be done with the use of a finger to hold back the glycerol layer.


If done correctly and safely, homemade biodiesel can provide a cheap and clean fuel for cars, or any other area where diesel can be burned. Doing this involves no advanced knowledge of chemistry, and chemicals which are freely available at the supermarket (lye) and auto supply stores (methanol). If the biodiesel is further “washed,” remarkably high grades of quality can be achieved.

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